Michigan State University

May 4, 1846: The First Woman to Speak Before The Michigan Legislature Endorses Women's Suffrage

Jon Harrison
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Ernestine Rose became the first woman to address the Michigan legislature when she spoke to the all-male body about women's suffrage.

The rest of the story:

Ernestine Rose — Polish-born feminist, atheist, and abolitionist who had relocated to New York — spoke twice to the state House of Representatives in Michigan.

She spoke "on the science of government." The lecture is well received and the House passes a second resolution granting Mrs. Rose the use of the House of Representatives the following evening for a second lecture on "the antagonistical principles of society." Both lectures were likely on women's rights and the lack of protection afforded to women under the law.

Her talks are remembered both as the first time a woman spoke to the Legislature and for bringing the question of female suffrage to the state.

The Daily Advertiser urged residents to go hear her speak, noting that they “will be gratified to ascertain that talent and genius are not confined to the stronger sex.”

Sources :

Michigan Historical Calendar, courtesy of the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.

Michigan Historical Review Facebook Page, March 24, 2017.

Ernestine Rose wikipedia entry

Jewish Virtual Library

Michigan Women's Historical Center and Hall of Fame Historical Timeline

Rebels and reformers : biographies of four Jewish Americans : Uriah Phillips Levy, Ernestine L. Rose, Louis D. Brandeis, Lillian D. Wald / by Alberta Eiseman ; illustrated by Herb Steinberg.

The American life of Ernestine L. Rose / Carol A. Kolmerten.

Ernestine L. Rose and the battle for human rights / Yuri Suhl.

Eloquent crusader: Ernestine Rose / Yuri Suhl.

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